Yes, it's time for our annual Scholium Project offering!
These selections represent this year's three greatest hits, each one riveting and uniquely expressive:
- 2005 Petit Sirah "Babylon"
- 2006 Sauvignon Blanc "La Severita di Bruto"
- 2006 Sauvignon Blanc "The Prince in his Caves"
Please see below for the details and full tasting notes for all wines.
The Scholium Project is one of the most thoughtful, and outrageous, artisanal producers in California. These are intense, powerful and singular wines - from Sauvignon Blanc to Petit Sirah. They also happen to be some of our favorites and every year we look forward to Abe Schoener's visit to Crush, where he presents his year's inspired work.
The Scholium Project is powered by the formidable energy, curiosity and intelligence of founder and winemaker Abe Schoener, a former professor of Greek philosophy who has since 2000 found himself at home in California's great frontiers, quietly seeking out gifted vineyards to craft into his bizarrely expressive wines.
It is these unique vineyard sites, in tandem with Abe's genius, that give the Scholium Project its fascinating expressiveness. You'll note that the wines are never labeled with the grape varietal, or even their specific appellation (Napa or Sonoma for example). Instead, the focus is on the vineyard site itself - see photo. Abe believes profoundly that it is the vineyards that shape the wine - the vineyard is what's important!
What we find so impressive about both Abe and his wines is their extreme comfort with (and delight in!) chaos; the precious sense that every site, every vintage, every grape in fact offers different strengths, different weaknesses, and the job of the winemaker is not to pump out the same formula year after year, but to in effect "dance with the vineyard," to use its own natural movements for the advantage of all. Rare occurrences like last year's botrytized grapes were made into the glorious "Cena Trimalchionis;" (a few bottles are still available) this year, two separate (and wildly different) bottlings were produced from different parts of the same vineyard (the Farina Vineyard produced both "La Severita di Bruto" and "The Prince in his Caves"). Speak with Abe about his work and you know, right away, that this is a deeply thoughtful man, and the wines express this fact.
Though the Scholium Project has a devoted and cult-like following, it's our belief that the singular quality of these wines deserves a broader audience - which is why every year since our opening we have proudly presented Abe's new creations.
Please review our top picks below. As this is a scholarly offering, we've provided lots of detail information on each selection, including its inspiration, site and complete tasting notes.
The miniscule scale of the Scholium Project just can't be over-emphasized. Production numbers for Scholium wines can be as low as 14 cases and total production hovers at only 1,500 cases.
2005 Petite Sirah "Babylon"
Abe himself calls this the "prize jewel of the 2005 harvest." We have to agree. With each vintage this wine just gets better and better. Outrageously intense and textured, with fine layers of detailed fruit morphing into complex notes of smoke and earth, dark spices, dried grasses and flowers. This is a burly wine that benefits tremendously from a decant, with ripe tannins that provide considerable structure - indeed, the juice spent more than 5 weeks with its skins! The Tenbrink Vineyard is in the Suisan Valley, "far enough from Napa to represent the mysterious, distant East" writes Abe. The vines produce few clusters of small-berried fruit; underneath a natural ground cover flourishes. The site is meticulously maintained by the Tenbrink family and it's clearly a place that Abe has fallen in love with.
2006 Sauvignon Blanc "La Severita di Bruto"
Farina Vineyard - Rocky Section
Didier Dageuneau meets F.X. Pichler! Sauvignon Blanc with a dizzying freshness and screaming minerality - Sancerre's minerally Chavignol from the Farina Vineyard on the top of Sonoma Mountain? The wine itself is supercharged with lime zest and an acidity that is coiled and taut, persistent and glowing. This has quickly become one of our favorite California Sauvignon Blancs, period. Abe says that the Farina Vineyard is, "in some senses, the single most promising vineyard [he] works with." The grapes for the Severita di Bruto are sourced from a section of the vineyard that's rocky and steep; Abe describes the site as a "granitic rockpile" - the poor soils forcing the vines to produce concentrated, small berries. I think it's safe to say this is one of the most impressively focused Sauvignon Blancs out there. An astounding vineyard producing astounding juice.
2006 Sauvignon Blanc "Prince in his Caves"
Farina Vineyard - Fertile Section
We'll continue here with the winemaker comparisons, though this one's easy: Fiorano meets Kongsgaard! Eccentric Sauvignon Blanc from a less punishing part of the Farina Vineyard - the same vineyard as the Severita di Bruto. The fruit here is richer and fuller and spent 3 weeks fermenting on the skins after which the juice was put in 80% new wood where it finished its fermentation and aged for an additional 10 months. Though decidedly not for everyone, this is also a wine that is not to be missed for fans of eccentric, earthy, floral, nutty whites - think Gravner, Radikon, Vodopivec and of course the eccentric Prince of Verosa himself, Alberico Boncompagni Ludovisi of the cult Fiorano estate, after whom the wine is named. Abe's "hommage" is full and supple, concentrated with strange yellow-golden earthy fruits, honey, and melon with complex herbal notes and a luscious, easy going mouthfeel that is textured and layered. The wine unwinds in the glass to become more and more beguiling.